A letter from Mark Graham about his hymnal project

As readers of the Journal know, I completed a hymnal designed for the churches of God in April 1997. It included 29 songs by Dwight Armstrong. We received written permission from the board of the Worldwide Church of God to use those hymns, but for reasons of his own their attorney, Mr.Ralph Helge, has not found time to issue us the necessary license.

I have accepted as reality the fact that such a license is not going to come. (Other groups are also having difficulty obtaining one.) So, I have decided to produce another hymnal, without the Dwight Armstrong hymns. I know that they are of great emotional and traditional value to many, including myself, but I was excited to find that there are plenty of other hymns with texts from the psalms and other scriptures, that are as good as or better than the Dwight Armstrong hymns. Also, I was able to track down hymnals that prove beyond question that Mr. Armstrong often used existing lyrics and simply set them to music. This means that we can still use the familiar words if they are sung to different tunes.

Furthermore, I have decided to make the entire hymnal royalty-free. This is a little different from public-domain, in that some of the hymns are copyrighted, but are available free for any non-profit use. It means I will have to omit some very good hymns, but there is no shortage of equally good hymns to replace them. It is amazing how many wonderful, little-known hymns are out there for our use, which seem as though they were written specifically for law-keeping Christians who eagerly await the return of Jesus Christ to establish His kingdom. I think that those of you who see the finished product will see how custom-made it is for our people. I am also trying to make it suitable for Christians anywhere in the world by leaving out nationalistic hymns and including songs from international sources.

When it is finished, I will notify everyone who has contacted me. The plan is to print it and sell it at near cost, but because it is royalty-free, anyone who wishes to will also be able to photocopy it or post it on a web page. If someone with more energy than I have wishes to make tapes of the hymns and distribute them (they're available in MIDI format), or translate them into other languages (they're currently all in English), they can do so without worrying about royalties or lawsuits. I am very excited about this hymnal, and I think that every song is a winner.

Unfortunately, I have to do this in my spare time. I'm making good progress, but it probably will be finished after the Feast of Tabernacles this year. I appreciate your patience, and hope that others are as enthusiastic about it as I am.

Mark Graham
P.O.Box 770261
Lakewood, OH 44107-0019
Phone (216) 529-1380
email magraham@bw.edu


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